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Cramped Cudahy Puts Temporary Halt on Residential Construction

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cudahy city officials are the first to admit that they have done almost nothing to prevent their town’s fast-growing population from overwhelming city services, but last week they took their first stand against uncontrolled growth.

The City Council voted 4 to 1 to impose a temporary moratorium on residential construction in most of the city while officials figure out how to handle the burgeoning population. Councilman John Robertson voted against the moratorium.

Councilman Joseph Fregeau said, “Everyone I talk to has said, ‘Hey, we have enough people in Cudahy. Let’s stop and see what we’ve got and what we’re going to do.’ ”

The county estimates that about 21,000 residents are crammed into the square-mile city, making it the third-most-crowded municipality in the county. City officials said schools are overcrowded, streets are clogged with traffic, water supplies are strained and the sewer system is overtaxed.

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The moratorium “is something that should have been done years ago,” Fregeau said. “But back when it should have been done, the council had its mind on other business.”

The moratorium limits construction of apartments, homes and duplexes in multifamily residential areas, which cover about 70% of the city, Fregeau said.

Cudahy joins a handful of cities in southeastern Los Angeles County that have clamped down at least temporarily on building permits in a bid to try to control neighborhood development. Maywood, the most crowded city in the county, approved building restrictions last year. Whittier and Montebello recently passed construction moratoriums.

The Bell and Norwalk city councils also ordered moratoriums, but those didn’t stick. Bell’s moratorium was in effect for a year before being lifted. Norwalk officials on May 1 placed a 45-day moratorium on building in the downtown area, where small apartment buildings are replacing aging single-family residences. A proposal to extend the moratorium for 10 1/2 months failed.

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A moratorium is initially limited by state law to 45 days. A city council can extend a moratorium up to two years, but only with the approval of four-fifths of council members.

During the 45-day moratorium in Cudahy, city staff members will study development standards and their effects on growth, Planning Director William Davis said. Employees will also begin updating a master plan for developing the city.

Fregeau said the council would like to reduce the number of residential units per lot, increase requirements for open space, and enlarge the industrial area.

Most city officials agree that it is too late to try to reduce the density of the town. “The point is not to reduce the density of the town. The point is to be wiser planners for the future,” Fregeau said.

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BACKGROUND Like most cities in southeast Los Angeles County, Cudahy started out as the California version of the Midwestern farm town. When it incorporated in 1960, fewer than 10,000 people lived within its square-mile boundaries. The population increased to 16,000 by 1970, and has been growing steadily since then. An estimated 21,000 people now live in the city, making it the third-most-crowded municipality in the county, according to county planning officials.


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